Rock’n the Rez and judging N-D-N KARS

Story & Photos By Richie Plass
Oneida, Wisconsin (NFIC) 8-08

Keith Secola took the painted van (The Beast) for a ride. The Beast took second in the car show.

On July 17, 2008, I was honored to have drummed for the one and only, Keith Secola. He was on the Oneida Reservation for two concerts, one at noon and the other at 7 pm. I went to the afternoon show because of the radio show I co-host, which is sponsored by the Oneida Arts Department, was one of the major sponsors of his shows.

When I walked into the auditorium and shook hands with Keith, he said, “Man, Rich, I forgot you lived around here. Too bad you don’t have your drums.” I said, “They’re in the van,” and he said, “Go get ‘um!” So, off I went to the parking lot, unloaded my drums and performed with him during both shows.

I had met Keith a few years back at Indian Summer Fest in Milwaukee, and we (Flying Feather Band) backed him him last year at a show at the LCO Casino in Hayward, Wisconsin, so I know some of his music. Plus, we play his songs on the radio show, so I wasn’t totally in the dark. But... he did play some songs I had never heard before, but we made it through.

For the evening concert Keith had also invited Wade Fernandez on guitar and Ted Skennadore on percussion. He also had his bass player with him, Jimmy, so he had a full band. Matter of fact, as Keith had announced during the show, we are now long-distance members of his, “Band of Indians.” How cool is that?

This blue and white pick-up took first in the car show.

Keith, as many people know, is a very talented musician, songwriter and performer. His songs and music are related to all Native Americans across Turtle Island. Matter of fact, as was written in the Green Bay Press Gazette, he is called the “Bob Dylan of Native music.” How true. But Thursday night’s show also showed people how much of a true entertainer he is. From bringing people on stage to help sing “Fry Bread,” to letting other members of the band take certain leads, Keith is a true entertainer.

I have had the honor and privilege of drumming for Keith, Bill Miller, Marvin Rainwater, Qua Ti’ Si, Arigon Starr, Wade Fernandez, Storm Seymour and even sharing the stage with members of “BR549” and even Jeff Cook of the country band “ALABAMA.” All of these performers are people I have watched and listened to almost my whole life. But to be asked to perform with them is quite an honor.

Like my Dad told me years ago, “Music and a smile are all you need in life. So if you can play a tune and make someone smile, that’s all you need.” Well, I am beyond whatever I had thought I could do when it comes to music. Matter of fact, Thursday night Keith said, “I am lucky because I got to travel and perform with Floyd Westerman when I first started to play. Floyd opened up many doors for many people, and I am so glad to have these gentleman backing me up tonight because I really believe all Native performers should work together more and more because of all the talent that’s out there. That’s one thing I learned from Floyd.” Great, great words.

As part of his concert, we had an “N-D-N KARS” Car Show. It was great! Keith was the judge and there were some honest to goodness, “N-D-N KARS” on display! Once he was finished looking them over, he told everyone, “Now, during the show tonight, there’ll be one more part to judging. I’ll interview the contestants and then I’ll pick the winner.” How cool was that? His questions were great. For me the best one was, “What’s you car’s name?” The answers were as cool as the cars! Then he picked the winner. It was a young man from the Menominee Reservation whose entry was named, “Gladys.” It was an older Chevy truck with no back window, the doors were tied shut because they don’t shut, the box was pretty ragged and was wired AND ducked taped... but it ran! Until his ride back to the Menom Rez. He ran out of gas before he got home! What a perfect ending to a great, great night.

This Plymouth Wagon took third in the car show.

If you’ve never seen him “Live,” please go see Keith if he comes near wherever you are. You will be entertained and you will hear great music and great songs. I have always looked forward to Keith’s music and performances, but now I am able to say, “Cool... I’m a ‘Wild Indian’ in Keith’s far-reaching band.” That is an honor I’ll hold onto for a long, long time.

Thank you, my friend. Thank you for the great music and the many, many smiles. Dad was right. Somehow, sometimes, life is that simple.